Until the early 17th century England and Scotland were two entirely independent kingdoms. For centuries each had been ruled by its own monarch through separate systems of government. Frequent wars in the middle ages and the 16th century testified to the disagreements and rivalries that bedevilled relations between the two kingdoms occupying the island of 'Britain'.
• © Mark Pigott Collection
This situation changed dramatically in 1603 on the death of Elizabeth I of England. Because the Queen died unmarried and without children, the English crown passed to the next available heir, her cousin James VI, King of Scotland. England and Scotland now shared the same monarch under a 'union of the crowns'. But for the next hundred or so years relations between the two kingdoms were anything but harmonious.
The pages in this section explore the background to the difficult relationship between England and Scotland, analyses the complex reasons why in the course of the seventeenth century neither England nor Scotland were much inclined to the idea of becoming a single state.